Some artists fear change. Not folk warbler Alela Diane.
Much has transpired in her life since her breakthrough sophomore set, 2009’s “To Be Still.”
She relocated to Portland; bought a Victorian fixer-upper; married her longtime beau, backing bassist Tom Bevitori, at their estate; assembled the full-time band Wild Divine, which includes her guitarist father, Tom Menig; and began a new co-writing process with her husband, often on piano instead of her usual guitar.
“I feel like I’ve made a major accomplishment, because my hair is almost shoulder-length, and actually in a ponytail today,” she says. “Because two years ago, I literally had a shaved head.”
American fans, who can catch her in Oakland tonight, might have missed the skull-cut phase, says Diane, whose formerly hippie-length tresses once flowed down her back.
But at overseas concerts, she says, “Everyone was like, ‘You used to be so beautiful! Why did you cut your hair off?’ It was really pretty horrifying.” But she had no choice: “We’d been touring so much, my hair started falling out from stress — it was really thin and awful, so I snipped it all off, until I barely had an inch of it left,” she says.
As Diane — who performs without her surname, Menig — tells it, she never really planned on this as a career. Initially, she simply discovered a knack for spinning out originals in a half hour, an hour tops.
Then, just for fun, she and her dad recorded her indie debut “The Pirate’s Gospel,” which soon went gold in France.
Suddenly, she was thrown into a whirlwind of nonstop touring, which never flagged for three taxing years.
“There was never a moment to catch my breath or even assess what I was doing,” she says. “I was just doing it, running some crazy race.”
So, for a solid year, Diane stayed home, renovating and getting serious about her compositions.
When her mother underwent chemotherapy and a friend of a friend was murdered in cold blood, she says, “Death definitely stepped onto this record — my mom’s OK now, but songs like ‘The Wind’ came out of deeper and darker places. So I really worked with these songs and changed them so many times before they were finished.”
Ex-R.E.M. and Replacements producer Scott Litt even came out of retirement to polish Diane’s work to perfection on the recording, called “Alela Diane and Wild Divine.”
“Now I’m touring again, but I think I’m actually prepared for it this time,” she says. “I’ve got my husband and my dad on the road with me, so for the first time, I have a family and a home wherever I am.”
IF YOU GO
Where: The New Parish, 579 18th St., Oakland
When: 9 p.m. today
Contact: (510) 444-7474; www.thenewparish.com